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Yamaha Racing Heritage Club Starts Year in Style at Sunday Ride Classic

Yamaha Racing Heritage Club Starts Year in Style at Sunday Ride Classic

The Yamaha Racing Heritage Club enjoyed a superb start to 2023 in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Sunday Ride Classic in France, with legendary riders Christian Sarron and Steve Baker kickstarting the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the TZ.

The historic Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet played host once again to the annual Sunday Ride Classic from the 6th to the 7th of May, which sees passionate fans from all over the world travel to the south of France to celebrate the history of motorcycle racing.

The Yamaha Racing Heritage Club (YRHC) was out in force at its first event of four in 2023, as it celebrated 50 years since the launch of the game-changing liquid-cooled TZ production racer. Yamaha released the two-cylinder TZ250 and TZ350 in 1973, based on their factory race bikes from the previous season, and made them available for riders to purchase.

This allowed anyone to buy a stock machine, turn up at a GP or race and be able to compete with the factory teams, which revolutionised the world of racing at the time. Then, in 1974, Yamaha brought out the TZ750, that went on to become the most dominant motorcycle of the era, recording nine consecutive Daytona 200 wins.

Fittingly, two riders whose names were synonymous with the TZ were also present to meet and greet the fans and light up the event by taking to the track on their iconic machines. 1977 Formula 750 World Champion, and all-round racing legend, Steve Baker was reunited with the TZ750 he rode to the title that season for the first time on track in four years. The 70-year-old quickly clicked with his old machine, describing riding it as “the best feeling ever!” The American was joined on track by ex-rival and good friend Christian Sarron on the TZ750 he rode to second in the championship that year.

Home hero, Sarron, who became the 1984 250cc World Champion on a TZ250, delighted the French fans by doing numerous signings alongside Baker and also had a special treat in store for them; when he took to the track on the YZR500 0W98 he rode to pole position and second in the race at the 1988 French GP at the same circuit. It was an emotional moment for the Frenchman: "To ride that bike, in my colours, here at Circuit Paul Ricard in front of the French fans…was very special.”

Also on display in the YRHC garage was one of the first-ever incarnations of the TZ350A, in original Yamaha racing colours, plus also a lovingly restored replica of the TZ350A that Jarno Saarinen rode to victory at the 1973 Daytona 200, when he famously took on and beat the other manufacturer's 750cc machines.

There were also numerous TZ750s from across the years, including bikes ridden by Giacomo Agostini, Johnny Cecotto and Hubert Rigal, plus Freddie Spencer’s ROC Yamaha YZR500 from 1993.

On Sunday, the TZ Club of France joined the YRHC on track to take part in a special TZ parade lap, with over 30 of the famous two-stroke machines creating one of the highlights of the entire weekend.

Mixing the classic with the modern, there was also the chance for current-day Yamaha XSR owners to attend the event as guests of Yamaha France, with a whole area set aside for them to relax, socialise, and exchange stories with each other and their heroes.

Plus, they got to participate in a couple of parade laps with Baker, Sarron, and Yamaha Motor Europe President Eric de Seynes while free ride-outs were available to anyone wanting to try the manufacturer's latest range of retro-styled naked bikes.

After such a successful first event of the year, next up for the YRHC is the Yamaha Riding Experience at Mugello, Italy, on the 21st to the 22nd of July, where they will honour the 25th anniversary of the R1 with a bumper crop of past and present racers, including Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Official Team’s 2021 WorldSBK Champion Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and his teammate Andrea Locatelli, plus the GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team duo of Dominique Aegerter and Remy Gardner, as well as some very special guests, from both the past and the present, who will make a surprise appearance during the event.

Do you own a Yamaha race bike, whether on or off-road? Find out if you are eligible to become a member of the YRHC and register your bike on the official database to receive advanced technical support. Click here for more information and to start the registration process.

Eric de Seynes

President Yamaha Motor Europe

“This is the second time we have come to the Sunday Ride Classic with the YRHC, and it really is one of the best events of its kind in Europe. There is such a great connection between the fans and the riders who were their heroes; everybody is smiling here. Personally, it is great for me, as I get to meet hundreds of people to share stories and listen directly to the voice of the customers and the fans; plus, I also got to share some nice moments talking and riding with the XSR owners who were invited here. The YRHC is not just about celebrating Yamaha’s racing heritage; it is also about our genuine responsibility as a manufacturer to provide advanced technical support to the collectors and owners of bikes we have sold over the years to allow them to keep these machines running and, of course, to share our culture and passion for racing with the fans.”